Chocolate chunk cookies are my calling card. If you’ve ever been to my house, chances are you’ve seen my giant cookie jar brimming with the homemade treats, June Cleaver style. If you’ve invited me to dinner and I’m bringing dessert, I’ll probably have some cookies on me. Bake sale? Cookies. About to run a long, boring meeting? A tray of cookies makes it all the more tolerable. (Plus they make people smile.) Dave’s meeting with new clients? Cookies and milk break the ice. Parent-teacher conferences? I always bring a little baggie of them to the poor teacher who is inevitably strapped to her chair for the afternoon.

And nothing makes my boys happier than the sweet smell of my cookies wafting from the oven. Nothing. Even the grumpiest, most homework-laden dude instantly perks up when a hot batch is cooling in the pan.

Sure, sure, I’m out here in what I’ve discovered to be chocolate chip cookie country. Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton is renown for their crispy disks, which you can buy in cute packaging in specialty markets around the country I presume (or at least in the northeast). Manhattan-based Levain Bakery has an outpost in Wainscott that sells their signature ooey-gooey, swoonful chocolate chip walnut cookie “blobs.” And man, are they divine!

But I’ll put my cookies up against either of those any day. And believe it or not, my super-secret recipe is based on Ina’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

I’ve been a sucker for a good homemade chocolate chip cookie since I was just a wee lass. I learned young that cookie mix out of a box and slice “˜n bakes ain’t gonna cut it. Honestly, now, they just aren’t real cookies. I’d follow the recipe for Toll House cookies on the back of the yellow package of Nestle chips. I’d hunt down and attempt any recipe I could find in one of my mom’s ladies magazines or in a new cookbook. With the advent of the internet, I would bake up batches of the recipe that came with the urban legend about a disgruntled customer who was supposedly swindled into buying the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe for $250. The Mrs. Fields’ recipe with blended oatmeal. David Leite’s supposedly “perfect” recipe with Valrhona feves and sea salt.

But the one I’ve liked best, over and over for the past eight years, has been Ina’s. The more I’ve made them, the more liberties I’ve taken, and the better the reviews of the cookies. Many have suggested I package and sell “˜em…but I remain unconvinced that they’re any more special than anyone else’s, plus I think chocolate chip cookie love is quite personal. Of course people will be more than happy to eat them if I bring them to a meeting, but buy ’em? I don’t think so.

While I won’t give away all my secrets, I will say that I chunk the block chocolate by hand, and it must be Scharffen Berger. I vary between 62% (semisweet) and 70% (bittersweet); the boys prefer the sweeter chocolate, while I prefer the bittersweet. The butter is key ““ I favor a certain brand (although it’s not the brands in the ingredient photo). Never, ever use a nonstick pan…I swear by professional half-sheet pans with Silpat liners. I vary a few other measures and ingredients from the original recipe, and then there’s the secret ingredient that I refuse to divulge that makes them extra-tasty. But rest assured, Ina’s recipe right from the book will yield delectable cookies that will bring cheer to anyone you share them with. And really, who wants to affiliate with someone who doesn’t at least crack a tiny grin when you give them a home-baked chocolate chunk cookie anyway?



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